number one rule to follow when you have lost data is to not write anything more
to the affected hard drive! This rule stands true for any situation...
If you have deleted a partition
by accident, do not create another partition, just leave it blank.
If you have deleted files from the recycling bin that you realize you
need, do not (if possible) save anything to the drive. The reason for this is that hard drives do not actually
erase anything, not data or partitions. When you erase a file from the
operating system, it is just marked on the drive as having been deleted. When the system needs to store more data on the drive,
it will consider files on the drive marked 'deleted' as being empty space, and cheerfully
copy over them. If that happens then you're in big trouble.
The same rule applies twice over for partitions; since partition information just presents the operating system
with a way of addressing the space available on the drive. If you wipe out
a partition everything from it will seem to be gone.
So if there is no partition
information, no data can be read by the operating system. This
does not mean that your data it is not there however, only that
you can't see it. Data-recovery programs have no such handicap.
What I had done in my zeal was to
allow FDISK to test the integrity of the drive, which it does by writing a pattern
of data to certain areas. Of course, in my case, many of these areas
contained partition information and/or critical system files. The result was one
missing partition, due to a destroyed boot sector, and one unbootable (but still
readable) XP installation. The good news? I got it (almost) all back.
and best thing to do in a data-loss situation is to make sure no more data is
written to the drive. Obviously, if you have just the one partition and it's
fried, you can't boot normally to the operating system. The best option in this
situation is to transfer the drive to another computer, preferably one using the
same file-system as your damaged partition (i.e. the same operating system, or a
newer version). See the PCSTATS Beginners Guides sectionfor information on how to
move your hard drive to another computer.
Transferring the HDD to another computer has the dual benefit of preventing the
drive from being written to accidentally, and potentially allowing you to retrieve information from the disk just
by using Windows Explorer to look through file structures.
If you have damaged or erased essential operating
system files, but the partition information is still intact Windows will not
boot. The HDD can still be read from a different operating system which is one
way out of the doom and gloom.
This was the case with one of the two XP partitions
on the disk I mangled, as I was able to fully access it after moving the hard
disk physically to another computer.